Portraits of partnership
Covering the period between 1961 and 1987, Kenneth Powell's weighty volume puts Rogers'memorable projects - Creek Vean, Reliance,Pompidou and Lloyds - into a broader context.It is composed offour episodes:Team 4,Richard and Su Rogers, Piano and Rogers and,finally,the Richard Rogers Partnership;natural divisions in the development ofthe work.Each episode begins with a thoughtful essay giving an insight into Rogers'personal development, professional career,references,and way of working.
'Team 4,the AA ,Yale and early influences' gives an important clue to Rogers as an instigator offree thought,not just in the early works but in the debates he now engenders.His stint at Yale in the early 1960s must have been a heady time,after he left the AA 'with no great sense ofdirection,save for a vague Italian influence'.On his return to London,and with the establishment ofTeam 4,his US experiences and the influence of Paul Rudolph and Serge Chermayeff enabled ideas to be put into practice.
Featured from this period are the poetic and beautiful Creek Vean,some one-off houses and housing projects,and the
Reliance factory.Although this was obviously a time ofsearch,this section ends with a quote from Rogers - 'Reliance was a breakthrough.We had found our style'- who was clearly established as a man to engender teamwork,'a leader to inspire the group'.
Paradoxically the second part ofthe book,Richard and Su Rogers,is also concerned with research and experimentation,especially the transfer ofideas from America.Buckminster Fuller was a potent influence,alongside Jean Prouve.This chapter outlines the work ofthe practice with the Design Research Unit but the highlight for me here - and beautifully photographed - is the crisp simplicity ofthe Rogers House in Wimbledon.
In episode three,Piano and Rogers, Powell focuses on the Pompidou Centre.In the aftermath ofthe events of1968,there was a climate for the acceptance ofsome radical ideas,and Pompidou was in a way a response to this - 'an anti-elitist public forum'.This essay is peppered with photographs ofthe team through the stages ofthe project and concludes with the reunion party in 1991 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of winning the Pompidou competition.Such images provide enjoyable interludes in the book.
This chapter gives a cameo ofthe key figures who built the Pompidou and ofthe team which became the Richard Rogers Partnership.Although this period was dominated by the Pompidou,other projects outlined include the Patcentre offices, UOP ,B&BItalia,and housing projects for Park Road (St John's Wood) and Millbank.
The concluding episode,on the work of the Partnership,describes Rogers' developing interest in the City,with ample coverage ofthe Lloyd's Building.But there is also the political saga at Coin Street and Rogers'concern with 'urban,political and economic context'.The interesting projects for me at this point were the National Gallery extension,the Arno masterplan and London as it could be,while the chapter concludes with Rogers'own house at Royal Avenue - again giving a personal insight into the man.
The book is clearly laid out and full of seductive glossy photographs;perhaps to many ofthem,when line drawings would have given a more complete picture.The criticism on the individual projects suffers from being too close to the subject,but Powell's essays are very readable,plotting Rogers'career with clarity and setting the stage for the individual buildings.Whether taken as a whole or browsed in parts,this volume makes a worthy addition to any library.
Andrew Taylor is an architect with Patel Taylor